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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman's Money Focus Could Cost Her Friends

DEAR ABBY: I feel lucky to have a wonderful circle of friends. We've always been there for each other, in good times and bad.

However, one of these individuals (I'll call her Ruth) has a more affluent lifestyle than the rest of us. Ruth and her husband earn professional incomes that allow her to enjoy the finer things in life.

She is well aware of the fact that most of us are unable to live the way she does. The problem: When any of us purchases new clothing, furniture, etc., she invariably asks -- in front of everyone -- where it came from, who designed it, if it was on sale, etc.

Apparently this information is important to her because she's always talking about where she purchased her designer outfit and how much it cost.

Can you give me a clever comeback for the next time the interrogation begins? I'd like to put Ruth in her place without destroying our friendship. By the way, she's pretty good about dishing out criticism, but not at taking it. -- OFFENDED IN THE SOUTH

DEAR OFFENDED: Since Ruth is part of your "wonderful circle of friends" who have "always been there for each other in good times and bad," give her the benefit of the doubt. She may just be trying to make conversation, or to compliment you on your taste, so there is no reason to put her down.

Take her aside and tell her privately that her questions make you uncomfortable, and why. If she continues to quiz you publicly, smile and say, "I've told you before, I'd rather not discuss it." And change the subject.

DEAR ABBY: A few weeks before our son's first birthday, my mother-in-law asked what we were buying for him. I told her I hadn't decided yet, but I knew what I wanted to get him when he was older. Well, she bought him the toy I mentioned. Abby, it says right on the box: "CHOKING HAZARD -- not for children under 3."

When my husband gently pointed out that the gift was "too old" for our son, she snapped, "It's all plastic parts!" and changed the subject.

Since then, she has asked us how he likes it. We have put her off by saying we haven't had time to put it together. I feel that warnings are placed on toys for good reason. I refuse to put my child in danger. Should we lie and tell her he likes the toy and put it in storage for a few years? What will we do when she visits?

We don't want to hurt her feelings, but I don't want this to happen every holiday or birthday. Any ideas how we can keep this from happening again? -- CAUTIOUS MOMMY IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR CAUTIOUS MOMMY: If you think a toy is dangerous, it's your parental obligation to keep it from your child. Rather than trying to tiptoe around this issue, tell her the truth and don't apologize. If this is an example of your mother-in-law's lack of judgment, do not leave her alone with your little boy. There is no telling what she might let him do.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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